Tha Sports Junkies 101

2017 NBA Opening Day Preview: Celtics vs Cavs and Rockets vs Warriors

Opening day Curt Johnson via flickr


The day we have all been waiting anxiously for has finally arrived, as the 2017-18 NBA season tips off tonight. The scheduling czars blessed us with two great opening day match-ups, featuring Boston vs the Cleveland and the Rockets and Warriors. This could very well be an early preview of the conference finals. Golden State appears to be living by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. Other than that, there are a lot of storylines and things to look out for in these match-ups.

Boston vs. Cleveland, 8 pm EST

The inaugural game will mark the return of Kyrie Irving to the Quicken Loans Arena. After 6 seasons in Cleveland, 3 trips to the Finals, 1 ring and 1 trade request, he will be greeted with a mixed array of emotions. Unlike the return of LeBron in his first game in Cleveland with Miami, this should be relatively mild. James recently recalled his return to Cleveland, a game in which the fans allegedly were throwing batteries at him. During a recent interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, he said that Kyrie’s return should be “fine.”

After all, Kyrie isn’t the ‘kid from Akron’ trying to end a title drought in his hometown. He was an integral part of a great team win over Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals. This shot will be forever seared into the heads of Cavs (and Warriors) fans.

The Cavaliers even plan on paying tribute to the star guard with a video before the game. Some fans will cheer for him, but they will be short-lived and ultimately drowned out with boos. He made sure to add a little extra fuel to the fire before his new team’s first visit to the Q this season by trashing the city of Cleveland.

There are several uncertainties about tonight’s game, but one thing we know for sure is that it will be loud. If King James manages to play through a rolled ankle tonight, it will be absolutely bonkers.

The New Look Cavaliers

With guard Isaiah Thomas sidelined until at least December with a hip injury, former MVP Derrick Rose will get the starting nod. Before his career was derailed by injuries, Rose was as promising a young player as we have seen. Thus far in the preseason with his new team, he has looked really nice. We saw some flashes of vintage Rose, and if he can stay on the court, look for him to be a key piece of the offense.

He will never be the old Derrick Rose again, but he looks nimble. Cleveland fans should be excited to have him, especially for the low low price of the veteran’s minimum $2.1 million. With a veteran’s minimum deal, he is a very low risk and high reward player. The addition of Jae Crowder is also something to look out for. His versatility on both ends of the floor could allow Cleveland to try some interesting lineups during the course of the year. Expect Dwyane Wade to be nothing more than what we saw of him in Chicago last season. Being reunited with LeBron will not put him back into the Wade of 2013.

The New Look Celtics

Along with the addition of Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum help usher in a new era of Celtics basketball. With those three players, along with Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, Boston has a solid starting lineup. Their lineup offers a fantastic blend of talent, experience, and youth. Marcus Morris will be sidelined with a knee injury tonight, which should allow us to see Guerschon Yabusele and Daniel Theis get some minutes. Both players have shown flashes of potential this preseason and could be key pieces of the second unit.

Houston vs Golden State, 10:30 pm EST

This game should be particularly intriguing. Golden State has proven time and time again that they are the top dogs in the western conference, despite a number of talented players that have flocked west. Many Western Conference teams have continued to add star players this offseason in an attempt to make a run to the Finals while their windows are still open. The Rockets’ key offseason addition was Chris Paul. Though during his 12-year career he has failed to make it to a conference final, Houston hopes he will add enough talent and leadership to take them this year. They have enough talented players to put them in the handful of teams in the west with a shot at making it to the Finals.

It will be interesting to see the opening day chemistry between Paul and James Harden who have been building it this offseason. Other key contributors for the Rockets will be Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah A Moute. Zhou Qi will also be a player I will be keeping an eye on, as he has the size and shooting ability to become a key player in the rotation as well.

What Does Opening Day Mean For The Rest Of The Season?

Regardless, the Warriors will continue to be the Warriors, and they enter the season with the best odds of winning the championship. If so, it would be 3 rings for them in the past 4 seasons. Will anybody be able to stop them from coming out of the west? I think that this year, more so than previous recent seasons, it will come down to one thing. Who can get in the playoffs, yes, but most importantly, who will be healthy?

Ultimately, this is the opening day of the NBA season. These games will be fun to watch, but shouldn’t mean much of anything long term. Rather, we will simply see which teams will come out of the gates hot to start the year. All four of tonight’s teams will be in the playoffs and will have ample time to adjust to one another. If LeBron is unable to suit up tonight, look for Boston to get the opening day win in Cleveland. Don’t be surprised to see the Warriors come out and bully Houston on opening day.

For more NBA news, check out @TSJ_NBA on Twitter. You can also follow me at @jollett1.